The Prophet’s Curse: No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

1 Comment

The Curse of the Prophets: No Good Deed Goes Unpunished
Richard D. Ackerman (2010-2011, 2d.Ed.)
Riverside County Bar Magazine Article

When first asked to write this article, I didn’t quite know what to think or how to approach the issues.  Naturally, one would inquire as to why they had been chosen to write an article on the idea that ‘no good deed goes unpunished.’  Perhaps it’s just because I truly believe in a uniform justice system that cannot be destroyed or weakened by the whims of political correctness, unjustified entitlements to power, or discrimination.  Maybe it’s the fact that I have lost on so many unpalatable positions, that I am perceived as being the consistent bearer of the losing position.

Perhaps the characteristics of being hopeful, tenacious and committed are necessarily defined by commitment to suffering humiliation.  For all I know, it may just be my fearless stupidity.

A model justice system is ruled by reason, equity, and a sense that one is entitled to rely on equal application of uniform law.  With this in mind, it also must be remembered that today’s dissent may very well be basis for tomorrow’s justice.  We know this, yet so often fear being the voice of dissent or a counterbalance to excess power.

Fortunately, the otherwise controlling fear of change can be defeated. The recent decision by Judge Virginia Phillips on the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy aptly demonstrates the power of commitment to principle.  While I did not agree with the decision for reasons of the separation of constitutional powers, I bear the deepest respect for her courage to take on the entire military system in the pursuit of equality.  Indeed, the very essence of dissent is what makes for human progress and development of the unique democratic experience bestowed upon us.

One might want to say that this has nothing to do with being punished per se’ for good deeds.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  For its power to be felt, prophecy nearly requires persecution. For the known history of humankind, we have seen one prophet after another being condemned for simply taking a stand and pronouncing the truth.

The essential form of what it means to be a prophet is historically seen in Isaiah, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, John the Baptist, Jesus Christ, the Buddha, even the unimposing Dharma Bum, or just about any other perceived revolutionary.

By the way, don’t let your sensibilities about religion get in the way of a good thought about what it means to be human.  Don’t let my biases as to Biblical prophets interfere with the definition of yours (i.e., perhaps the Buddha or others).  Prophecy has never been a form of proselytization nor evangelism.  The latter require the ability to sell or enforce an idea or belief.  Prophecy is most defined by its initial lack of luster and desirability (i.e., because of its demand of human introspection).

I must also mention that I believe that prophets are neither nuts nor fortune-tellers.  To be a prophet means to be a representative of something higher than yourself.  It doesn’t mean you are a great person.  It certainly does not mean that you have any more power than anyone else.  You bear the calling of a messenger.  You get to bear complete responsibility for whatever you say and may even bear the risk of death itself.

Theoretically, each of us in the law ought to be a prophet on behalf of the Constitution and of the Judicial Branch in all of its noble purposes.

Of course, however, there must be a price for one’s desire to profess the law as it is, and the reason which provides the lifeblood of the law.  The price for your message may very well be disdain, frustration, mockery, lack of understanding, and intolerance.  As was recently pointed out by Jack Clarke, one of my most respected colleagues, if it was not for Dr. Martin Luther King, and so many others, we would not know the concept equality as we now know it to be.  What was the price Dr. King paid?  His very life.  Yet, his prophecy and vision lead to the conclusion that we all ought to be equally able to seek the highest that humanity has to offer.  This principle seemingly should never have been the barter for death.  His humiliation became a call for human dignity.

What is the sacrifice you would be willing to make in order to be a seeker of truth?  I don’t know if we would all deny representation of a well-paying client with a bad cause.  It doesn’t seem respectable that one should disagree with the mainstream.  Would you challenge a judge openly on a matter or law, or hide behind the veil of secrecy provided by ‘papering the judge’?  Will you and your house follow the law? Will you abide in the law and all of its travails?  Would you be willing to die to feed the life of another perceived to be of no value?

Often, respect for the law means that one will get to unpalatable conclusions.  Being truthful carries the risk of scorn.  This also means that one might as well plan on losing some arguments since reason, consistency, and justice require a stern heart and a desire to be magnanimous regardless of opposition.  Is strength and character found in accepting the status quo?  Or would it be better to define the status quo ante bellum, even if someone else may have to carry the torch after your embattled demise?

In the case of a being a lawyer, your representation of the law, as a higher cause, may simply mean that you have to be willing to respect the authority of the Court, but yet advocate for a position you know to be inconsistent with the realities of the times.  Humility in purpose has oft been the hallmark of a strong prophet.  Simply staying in the ring, without a complete knock-out, becomes the monument to one’s identity.

As of late, it seems that just about everybody needs to somehow be politically, religiously, or spiritually neutral.  This sickly complacency starves the human condition of its vitality.  Only an honorable judge needs to bear the responsibility of being completely neutral until the time of ultimate judgment under the law of our time.

Indeed, at the time of judgment under the law, not even a judge must remain wholly neutral.  Judgment ultimately entails the adoption of a steadfast position.  Our judges bear the message of a reliable system of law.  While rendering judgment does not necessitate the moral judgment of another, it certainly does require a willingness to rely on a foundation of truth.  Where the truth becomes elusive, fear of change causes manifest injustice.  If one cannot move from neutrality to judgment, one should not bear the position of being the arbiter of any dispute.  If one wants to find power in being wholly neutral from beginning to end, take up mediation or marital counseling.

Neither the parties nor their attorneys should be expected to maintain complete neutrality in their positions.  Not only is this psychologically impossible, it is unreasonable and a disservice to the calling of the profession.  Neutrality can be downright dishonorable.  The omission to act can amount to complicity in evil.  While it is true that one must be objective, it does not follow that one must simply concede to the most politically acceptable position.  The acceptability of particular political positions changes over time.  The failure to act in the face of intellectual tyranny has proven itself, time and again, to be consistently destructive.

Some would say that this is an over-dramatization of what it means to be a lawyer.  I think not. Indeed, I think it is a categorical imperative that we not be governed by reference to what our fellow attorneys might think.  Worse yet is the situation where we run from the law for fear of those who have not been blessed with the same gifts of knowledge we bear.  We don’t define our conduct by the conduct of others.  Neither hope nor faith would have a home in a static moral environment.

It is not sufficient that we simply do what is necessary to get by and achieve a result that just makes everybody happy.  Were it left to the happiness or perceived satisfaction of a given society in time, slavery would be but just one more accepted condition of being part of a human power structure.  Or, perhaps, the perceived right to be free of the crime of seditious libel against the government would be just a fleeting glimpse of true human freedom.  Perhaps the call of secularism would be the death of a hope in ultimate justice, regardless of what happens by mistake, evil, or just happenchance in this life.

The job requirements of being an advocate may very well mean that one is required to represent the higher principle of maintaining a system that can be relied upon by all regardless of the one’s perceived sins committed against society and its powers.

For, as has been said in other contexts, we wrestle not against the flesh but principalities.  Indeed, we become free by our very adherence to the strictures of the Constitution.  Paradoxically, we can find complete solace in a result we neither wanted nor one that could not have been foretold.

The fear of humiliation shouldn’t be confused with the humility which may be exactly what is required in a given situation. The unintended indignity of being told to sit at the back of a bus becomes the clarion call for the desire to stand up for the sacred privilege of defining the essence of human dignity for future generations.  Perhaps being called to the stench and squalor of a foreign place might lead to the conclusion that we justly be called blessed.  Don’t be afraid to accept punishment for your good deeds.

Be not afraid.  For the Good Judge shall bring down his judgment on all of us in the end.

December’s Scream (2010)

Leave a comment

R.D. Ackerman (2010)

Depth and Distance Should not be Confused with Each Other

Leave a comment

Thought for the day: “Sometimes I think people confuse the depth of one’s love for another with distance. The depth of one’s soul should not be confused with distance from another’s heart. Although, it is true that too much distance or depth can make it hard to see what’s there.”

Faith Alone: The Impossible Proposition

Leave a comment

The Impossible Proposition

For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works. Matthew 16:27.

Nobody wants to hear that you can’t get into Heaven unless you do the right thing, but that’s how each of our life-stories will end. It doesn’t seem to me, anyway, that Heaven is a place where you get to watch from afar the long line of condemned non-believers whilst you stand fully confident in your own faith/salvation. By assuming that your faith alone justifies you, you can only believe that you somehow hold the keys to Heaven and Hell. Not even Christ can take your faith away from you, right?

Your works or lack thereof will become manifest when your time comes. Matthew 13:49-50; 1 Corinthians 8-17; 2 Corinthians 5:10; 1 Peter 4:17-18; Jude 1:14-17; Revelation 20-21. Your deeds will follow you. Romans 2:1-16; Revelation 14:13.

Even if one assumed the absolute integrity of his or her faith, what is the harm in living out a life of works which is 100% consistent with your valued faith? This is sort of a modern-day Pascal’s Wager on morality.

The proposition that “faith alone” is wholly sufficient for entrance into Heaven is not only untenable, it is literally impossible. You don’t hold the keys to Heaven and Hell, no matter how hard you “believe.” Revelation 1:18, 20:13. Those who teach the concept of ‘justification by faith alone,’ without more explanation, are potentially misleading those who follow them. Matthew 24:4-24; 25:31-46. Without a doubt, works of selflessness, forgiveness, and charity are the essence of what it means to be a Christian. Matthew 25:31-46; Luke 6:37.

What can be said, however, is that we are not the only ones who believe in these basic characteristics of a holy or good person. The purposes of dying to self, charity, and love are not a Christian monopoly. As such, it is true that simply doing the acts does not justify us as Christians. That is ‘works for the sake of works’ is inadequate to justify nor sanctify the “Christian” as such.

Your works follow you into eternity and they will become the sole basis for your judgment — unless you think the Bible and its promises are a bunch of lies or just simply a self-help book of suggested living. John 10:32-38; Revelations 14:13, 20:11-15; 2 Corinthians 11:15; Ephesians 2:9-10; James 2:14-26; Titus 2:7, 3:8-14.

While Christ serves as our God-appointed defense attorney, there will be a final judgment of acquittal or one of condemnation. Confession of our crimes is a prerequisite to Divine Mercy. If one believes in “Biblical” Christianity, one would have to believe this as a matter of simple consistency. Revelation 20:11-15.

You must actually fear God, even if you think you are saved. Indeed, our fear is a necessary element of His loving Salvation Plan for us. Where should the fear come from? – In the potential loss of our salvation. Hebrews 10:26-31, 38. Nor is anything of this to say that we instantly become perfect through our acceptance of Christ into our lives. Some of us apparently need a longer purgation period than others (at least for me anyway).

Given the society and times we live in, it is perfectly foreseeable that alcohol, drugs, selfishness, vanity, lust, avarice, greed, sloth, pride, negative criticism of others, ignorance, and other sins would abound through no conscious fault of the sinner per se’. Some of our sins we bring to others, and sometimes we follow others into sin. 1 Timothy 5:24. The same goes for our good works. 5:25.

We are not in control of all of the influences which affect the strengths and weaknesses of who we were created to be. We often know, deep down, that we are screwed up. 1 John 3:20. Some sins are more serious than others. 1 John 5:16-17. Anybody who thinks that they are not screwed up has been lost on the whole point of the Divine Endeavor of Christ. 1 John 1:8.

Beyond a shadow of a doubt, failing in works of mercy/forgiveness of others is definitely one of the more serious problems. Matthew 5:22-30; Mark 9:43-47; James 5:9. Our anger and our words are no lesser issues when it comes to condemning ourselves to Hell. Matthew 5:22, 12:36; James 3:6; Jude 1:15. Even, our ‘religion’ can be made vain by our failure to bridle our words. James 1:26.

Indeed, there are darker parts of each of our souls that we don’t even understand, but we do get to watch God shine beams of light into through His purgations of our being. Romans 8:1; Luke 16:15; John 3:19-21; Acts 26:18. We are each faced with unique challenges suited to our calling and, concomitantly, the gifts/talents which allow us to actively engaged in a necessary purgation of the flesh and soul toward the end of spending an eternity in Godly peace. 1 Thessalonians 5:23. We need to be aware of the painful fact that our soul and body can be destroyed. Matthew 10:28.

Nevertheless, the idea that we have to work, or should have worked, to get into Heaven seems even offensive to many. Be offended, but don’t do it in ignorance. I don’t know why anybody would be offended by the idea that being a Christian means that certain conduct is not only expected of us, but mandated at the potential cost of losing our relationship with God. “For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins … The Lord shall judge his people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” Hebrews 10:26-39. Read it for yourself.

You are not “set aside” because God thinks you are somehow special unto yourself or that his pleasure in you is somehow permanent because you think you were “saved.” The Christian life is a selfless life of humble sacrifice and devotion. If you find yourself in the middle of having a monologue/dialogue about how certain you are that you are saved, you ought to be concerned. Where’s the humility in that? This said, we are all his children and are subject equally to His discipline for violating His covenants. Hebrews 26-29, 36-39. Thankfully, we are also all equal in the story of salvation from our confession of sin as well. Romans 10:9-15.

You are set aside because you willingly submit yourself as a vessel of God’s forgiveness, love, and charity toward all mankind. Indeed, fervent charity “shall cover the multitude of sins.” 1 Peter 4:8. However, you can also stop being used by God and choose a path of sin. Hebrews 10:26. Were it otherwise, we would deny the very freewill that allows for a conscious decision to accept or reject Christ in the first place. Romans 2:1-16; 1 Peter 4:17; 2 Peter 2:9.

When you reject your opus Dei, you reject the Holy Spirit endowed in you by your acceptance of Christ in your life. Matthew 12:31-32. Thus, the redemptive works are not yours. But in failing to do those assigned to you, you intentionally reject God’s purpose for you.

To be Christ-like means that you would selflessly do the works he commands of you just as He did for the Father. Likewise, if you do works of mercy only for your salvation, where is the charity in that? Others can only see Christ in us by the way we act (i.e., work). John 5:36, 10:37-38, 14:10-12; 15:24. To the extent that we suffer in life, we share in the Redemptive and Ultimate Suffering of Christ. In a very real sense, we can accept pain as a means of relating to Christ and living a small part of the incredible sacrifice He made for you and me.

In any event, we can’t be lukewarm about how we approach our duties on Earth lest we be spit out from the mouth of God. Revelation 3:15-16.

As of late, it seems that we only want to hear that we’ve been saved and if all goes well, we will do the right thing because we are Christians. The latter statement is true, but that’s just the point – you are “created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God had ordained that we should walk in them.”’‘ Ephesians 2:10. If one does not maintain a constant focus on works, we lose within us the very creative force which distinguishes us from other elements of the world.

Simply stated, a Christian needs to work on being a Christian. Titus 1:16. The failure to do so is a failure to seek sanctification and justification of our souls before the Heavenly Throne. Bad things will happen if you are remiss in your works. Revelation 20:11-15. Grace is the helpful stopgap between God, us, and our human failings at and before the time of death.

Do you need to ask for forgiveness more than once as a Christian? Does it matter? Do you need to confess of your sins (which have already been forgiven, according to contemporary Evangelical thought)? Confession is not a one-time deal at your altar-call or, if you are Catholic, at your confirmation. Romans 10:10.

There is simply no way to Biblically believe that believing that you’ve been saved is sufficient for entry into Heaven (i.e., “faith” alone). The Word clearly requires more of us and the number of Scriptures on this point is beyond overwhelming – and that’s just covering the New Testament.

While it may be easier to rest on the laurels of believing that my faith ‘tells me that I am saved and I don’t need to know any more,’ this is the functional equivalent of saying, ‘I know how to drive cars, because I believe in them.’ In reality, when we do bad stuff, we fall out of our Christianity altogether. 1 John 3:6-11 (we are not of God/Christ when we sin). Claiming the honor of Christianity means that we must stay honorable in all that we do and say. 1 John 3:4-10. Admitting/confessing that we are intentionally rejecting our inheritance is about the only way we can regain it. 1 John 1:9-2:1. Also see, Leviticus 5:5-6; Numbers 5:5-10 (sacramental confession).

It seems self evident that the need for “the law” as Paul describes in many letters, only came about as a result of the People of Israel’s failure to do the works that were commanded by God – they simply didn’t do what they were told to do and had to have the law imposed on them. See generally, Deuteronomy; Ezekiel 34:23; 37:24. With Paul, he saw the Redemptive Story of Christ as a liberation from the law as it is being defined Biblically. Romans 3:28 (“that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the LAW.). Compare, James 2:24 (“Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.” [emphasis added]).

The New and Everlasting Covenant did not release anyone from the need to work toward the end of what it means to be Christian. It meant that an eternal font of Grace would be available, regardless of the violations of “law” committed by us. When negligence, omission, or simple(y) intentional human failing (i.e., venial sin) gets in the way of holiness, Christ will meet us between Earth and Heaven. We fall out of brotherhood with Christ when we fail to do the word which we hear. Luke 8:19-21.

A pastor of ours, Ike Riddle, used to say “covenant keepers always win and covenant breakers always lose.” Such is the story of the Bible. But, what does it mean to keep a covenant? It means you have to do something – we need to abide in our promises. Luke 22:20-30; Jeremiah 31:31-33:26. How we express our Christianity, the covenant, is by what is “seen and heard.” Acts 2:33; Matthew 5:17-19 (commandments still valid and enforceable by teaching and doing). Be humbly seen and heard in your covenant-keeping now and forever.

So then, where does the Bible say that our works matter to salvation or, even, that they are absolutely necessary to our sanctification before God? The following is about as simple as it gets.

This is not a matter of parsing out only select words/verses, but actually constitutes a continuing theme and stream of thought by the Author of the Bible. This list is taken from the King James Bible in an effort to appease those who might claim that the Bible is somehow coopted by a Catholic interpretation of its contents.

The continuing theme of necessary works for our salvation is found in the following:

Matthew 5:16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

Matthew 7:22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?

Matthew 11:2 Now when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples,

Matthew 11:21 Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.

Matthew 11:23 And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.

Matthew 13:58 And he did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief.

Matthew 14:2 And said unto his servants, This is John the Baptist; he is risen from the dead; and therefore mighty works do shew forth themselves in him.

Matthew 16:27 For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.

Matthew 23:3 All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not.

Matthew 23:5 But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments,

Mark 6:14 And king Herod heard of him; (for his name was spread abroad:) and he said, That John the Baptist was risen from the dead, and therefore mighty works do shew forth themselves in him.

John 5:36 But I have greater witness than that of John: for the works which the Father hath given me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness of me, that the Father hath sent me.

John 6:28 Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?

John 7:3 His brethren therefore said unto him, Depart hence, and go into Judaea, that thy disciples also may see the works that thou doest.

John 9:3 Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.

John 9:4 I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.

John 10:25 Jesus answered them, I told you, and ye believed not: the works that I do in my Father’s name, they bear witness of me.

John 10:32 Jesus answered them, Many good works have I shewed you from my Father; for which of those works do ye stone me?

John 10:37 If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not. But if I do, though ye believe not me, believe the works: that ye may know, and believe, that the Father is in me, and I in him.

John 14:10 Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works.

John 14:11 Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works’ sake.

John 14:12 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.

John 15:24 If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin: but now have they both seen and hated both me and my Father.

Acts 7:41 And they made a calf in those days, and offered sacrifice unto the idol, and rejoiced in the works of their own hands.

Acts 9:36 Now there was at Joppa a certain disciple named Tabitha, which by interpretation is called Dorcas: this woman was full of good works and almsdeeds which she did.

Acts 15:18 Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world.

Acts 26:20 But shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance.

Romans 3:27 Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith.

Romans 4:2 For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God.

Romans 4:6 Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works,

Romans 9:11 (For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;)

Romans 9:32 Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone;

Romans 11:6 And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.

Romans 13:3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same:

Romans 13:12 The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light.

2 Corinth. 11:15 Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.

Galatians 2:16 Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.

Galatians 3:2 This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?

Galatians 3:5 He therefore that ministereth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you, doeth he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?

Galatians 3:10 For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.

Galatians 5:19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness,

Ephesians 2:9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.

Ephesians 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

Ephesians 5:11 And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.

Colossians 1:21 And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled

1 Timothy 2:10 But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.

1 Timothy 5:10 Well reported of for good works; if she have brought up children, if she have lodged strangers, if she have washed the saints’ feet, if she have relieved the afflicted, if she have diligently followed every good work.

1 Timothy 5:25 Likewise also the good works of some are manifest beforehand; and they that are otherwise cannot be hid.

1 Timothy 6:18 That they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate;

2 Timothy 1:9 Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began,

2 Timothy 3:17 That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.

2 Timothy 4:14 Alexander the coppersmith did me much evil: the Lord reward him according to his works:

Titus 1:16 They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate.

Titus 2:7 In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works: in doctrine shewing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity,

Titus 2:14 Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.

Titus 3:5 Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;

Titus 3:8 This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men.

Titus 3:14 And let ours also learn to maintain good works for necessary uses, that they be not unfruitful.

Hebrews 4:10 For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his.

Hebrews 6:1 Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God,

Hebrews 9:14 How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?

Hebrews 10:24 And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works:

James 2:14 What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? Can faith save him?

James 2:17 Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.

James 2:18 Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.

James 2:20 But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?

James 2:21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?

James 2:22 Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?

James 2:24 Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.

James 2:25 Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way?

James 2:26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.

James 3:13 Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom.

1 Peter 2:12 Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation.

2 Peter 3:10 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.

1 John 3:8 He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.

1 John 3:12 Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one, and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother’s righteous.

Revelation 2:2 I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars:

Revelation 2:5 Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.

Revelation 2:9 I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan.

Revelation 2:13 I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan’s seat is: and thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth.

Revelation 2:19 I know thy works, and charity, and service, and faith, and thy patience, and thy works; and the last to be more than the first.

Revelation 2:23 And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works.

Revelation 2:26 And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations:

Revelation 3:1 And unto the angel of the church in Sardis write; These things saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars; I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead.

Revelation 3:2 Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God.

Revelation 3:8 I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name.

Revelation 3:15 I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.

Revelation 9:20 And the rest of the men which were not killed by these plagues yet repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship devils, and idols of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, and of wood: which neither can see, nor hear, nor walk:

Revelation 14:13 And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them.

Revelation 15:3 And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints.

Revelation 18:6 Reward her even as she rewarded you, and double unto her double according to her works: in the cup which she hath filled fill to her double.

Revelation 20:12 And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.

Revelation 20:13 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.

The end.

Wash Up and Get on Your Knees

3 Comments

Wash Up and Get on Your Knees:
Thoughts About Daily Purification and Humility

A few weeks ago, I deeply enjoyed a sermon put on by Victor Marx, a local Calvary Church minister. Victor also happens to be a person for whom I have the deepest respect and admiration. He did a great job of exploring what it meant to wake up each day with a view toward living a holy life and a life which is acutely focused on God. He even talked about how waking up each day leads to the basic meals that we enjoy and the feast of the day known as supper.

However, I doubt that he was thinking that he was making a great argument for the importance of the daily Catholic Mass, but I’m going to run with the thought anyway and admonish that any differences in the practice of theology are just that – differences only. Without a doubt, I consider Victor to be a Brother in Christ and a Messenger of Truth.

Victor very simply described the process of waking up each morning – with a view toward having God as the focus our day, having God help us stumble out of bed, immersing ourselves in the Word, and the individual importance of simply having our coffee and a good shower. He quickly drew the metaphor to the truth of the Scripture found at Ephesians 6:13-20, which states:

10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.

11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.

12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.

13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

14 Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness,

15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace;

16 above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one.

17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God;

18 praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints —

While at first this all seemed to be rather simplistic, in a good way, in the coming weeks I have had the realization that what Victor was describing is exceedingly profound with deep theological underpinnings. He laid out the steps that I personally try to take each day I am able to get my lazy self out of bed and make my way to the local Catholic Church for daily Mass.

In thinking about the spiritual metaphors for daily cleansing and purification, the idea of taking a daily shower becomes a perfect metaphor for the spiritual cleansing which should take place on a daily basis. However, it also goes without saying that each of us even bathe differently on a daily basis, even though the outcome is much the same.

For example, one of us might use Irish Spring soap, another glycerin soap, or just about any other kind of soap. Nor do we all use the same brands of shampoo and conditioner. We don’t all use the same type of towel. Some like cold showers versus hot showers. Some shower in the morning — others at night. Some need bathrobes. Others need to just get dressed right away. Some get dressed in a closet and some folks just troop around in their birthday suits for a while. While this all seems mundane, the metaphor is powerful.

With respect to spiritual cleansing on a daily basis, some need to cleanse through a particular core theology which differs from yours. Perhaps, a physical reminder of our cleansing is needed through sacramentals such as holy water. Some of us feel a deeper need to dress up for Church than others. I, for one, enjoy getting up early and catching a time of reflection as the sun is just coming up. Some of us need to acknowledge our sins daily in a forum of admitted/fellow sinners. Indeed, some of us find deep benefit from art and imagery reflecting the bridge between our humanity and the spiritual world. For some, the power behind prayer, said in daily unison among believers, is remarkably powerful and unforgettable.

Indeed, some of us need to spend more time focusing on one area of our lives for cleansing and purification, just as one might use a specific type or brand of soap for one’s specific skin/hair condition. In the end, the basic purification process is accomplished. Although it may very well be true that a person forgets to wash his/her hair or forgets to wash some particular body part. Or it may be that the soap we’ve chose is simply insufficient for cleansing us of some disease or bacteria. This said, it’s probably also worth noting that most of us would not judge/condemn another for the type of cleaning product used. But, we might guide them to a way of doing things that helps their immunity from disease and ability to enjoy life. And, of course, we would acknowledge that taking a shower is a deeply personal issue which should be kept that way. Most of us are happy just knowing that others take the time to clean themselves. Why must it be so different in the case of religion and spirituality?

Before launching into the more controversial theme of this article, I must state that I absolutely agree with the premise that we ought to avoid dissension, theological fights, and any diversion away from our Christian purpose which has been described over several thousand years (i.e., Loving God with all of one’s heart and tending to the needs of the helpless). Isaiah 58:1-9; Romans 16:17-20; 1 Corinthians 1:10.

Nevertheless one should not be afraid to express personal views of what it means to be faithful and the practices by which one is able to fully realize the daily glorification of God such that we might better the plight of those we come in contact with and such that our souls may be amply purified for entry into the Kingdom of Heaven. Matthew 22:34-40; 25:31-46. This is the daily testimony that we should share with each other so that we might each come into a relationship with Christ, the Father, and the Holy Spirit. John 21:15-19 [a directive given by Christ after what sounds like a good breakfast with his disciples].

Unfortunately, judgment of one religious view, or practice, over another has caused way too much division, but yet allows for the possibility that all Truth will be reduced by the failure to focus on reunifying and absolute truths. 1 Corinthians 1-15. Many would say that there are no absolute truths, but relativism is just one form of intellectual and spiritual anarchy. The Story of Christ is consistent, filled with unity of purpose and philosophy, and does indeed lay down a set of principles by which all Christians are to live by. See; https://richackerman.wordpress.com/2009/12/05/we-should-know-what-we-believe-in-not-just-believe-in/

For me, the best way of getting ready for the day is the regular attendance of daily Mass. It assists in providing a spiritual cleansing, it provides a sense of an integral part of the larger universe, it gives cause for introspection, provides cause for acknowledgment of my imperfect state, gives me a chance to clean up my imperfections, offers a daily “altar-call,” and ensures daily reaffirmation of the Redemptive Story as it plays out in/around me.

One is also provided with the daily opportunity to know that the Word of God is being spoken in a literally universal sense. There truly is a communion of the faithful on Earth and in Heaven. At any given time, there are countless faithful who are hearing and bathing in the same Word each day for 24 hours a day. With the right purpose and heart, it is done only for the glorification of He who is in Heaven and acknowledges our worship of Him. See; U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Lectionary for Mass (Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Minn. 2002). I am humbled to join in the ranks of those who choose to collectively and literally kneel before the Throne of God on a regular basis.

With the thought that I can only describe what works for me in terms of daily preparation for life, this article is not intended to be an argument, but rather a heartfelt apologetic for what works for my spirit. I assume, because of your common humanity with me, that we might both better understand each other in what I have to say and your reaction to it.

For those not familiar with the Daily Mass and its Order, it goes something like this (with some variance according to day or purpose):

1st Most congregants will enter the Sanctuary and acknowledge their need to begin fresh by symbolically washing their head, heart, and body with holy water. Matthew 28:19; Acts 2:21. An introductory song is sung along with the entry of the priest responsible for leading the mass. Most Catholic hymns are taken directly from Scripture and put to music. Each day is a little bit different in terms of what theme the Mass might take with the music and Scripture to be read. Spiritually, this is the time when the congregants wake up and get out of bed – so to speak. We assess the availability of our spiritual armor and go through the process of putting it on for the travails of the day. It is a time to prepare for the spiritual cleansing and journey for the day. It is a time to fit our armor. Conceptually, it’s even good for those who like to wake up with a music alarm.

2nd Much in the same way a family member might greet us as we are waking up and beginning to mosey about, the Priest opens with a greeting and calls into focus the source of our power for the day. 2 Corinthians 13:14. Specifically, we are reminded that what we do is through the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. We physically reflect on our inner thoughts and sincere intentions by doing the ‘sign of the cross’ at this time. From this point, we ask for the blessings of God and prepare ourselves for the penitential reminder we need each day. Matthew 15:22. We acknowledge the marks upon our soul and ask for the cleansing that can only come through God’s Almighty Grace. We gird ourselves with the Truth of His Redemptive Purpose for us.

3rd We confess our sins to Almighty God and to our brothers and sisters. We acknowledge that we sin in not only what we do, but what we fail to do. We ask for prayer and forgiveness. Simply put, we recognize that we have made ourselves unclean by our acts and failures and that we wish for ourselves to be cleaned and to be provided the water and soap necessary to do that. I personally think that we even ought to recognize that there are fellow humans in the world who have neither water or soap. The same goes spiritually. It is difficult to think about putting on a protective breastplate or to shod one’s feet for the day when one does not so much as have a drop of water nor the ability to fight off disease and famine. We, who do have these things, must share of our wealth so that we might all be cleansed and ready for the pouring out of God’s Holy Rain upon our spiritual lives. Isaiah 58:1-9.

4th After taking confidence in our awesome blessings, through Faith & Grace, we can enjoy everlasting life, we thank God for his ability to cleanse us and the unique source and demonstration of His Power. Isaiah 6:3; Revelations 4:8; Psalms 188:26; Mark 11:10. This is done in the form of the Gloria, where we acknowledge the need for peace, we give thanks, we acknowledge that His cleansing takes away the sins of the world (not just us), and that He alone (in triune communion with Christ and the Holy Ghost), holds the power to cleanse us of our iniquities. We take on the helmet of Salvation and prepare to take up the sword of His Word only after thanking God for the strength and Grace to do so.

5th Next, the congregants take time to hear Scripture from the Old Testament, a Psalm (song), celebrate our participation in truth with a solid Alleluia (what is supposed to be “a superlative expression of thanksgiving, joy, and triumph”), and immerse ourselves in the Gospels. Psalms 146-150; Revelations 19:1-6. After each reading, we thank God for giving us His daily directions in the form of the Word. In this we have truly begun to bathe ourselves in Truth and prepare ourselves for acknowledging Christ in our lives in a most literal way each day. We think of the work that is required in our lives to fulfill the holy destiny that God has for each of us and how we will apply/work our lives in that direction through the thoughtful control of our freewill and the protective Grace of God.

6th We enjoy the interactive process of having a human representative of the Church (as a body of believers) share the practical meaning, history of, and interpretation of Scripture. As a representative father, he instructs on what we are to do with our day and the importance of staying clean for purposes of avoiding illness and in being able to commune with others. We acknowledge that the messenger is not perfect, but that the Message is perfect.

7th We collectively acknowledge the foundations of our faith by making a formal profession of our faith (particularly on Sunday). This is much in the same way that a family might sit down for breakfast and share in the value of their communal experience and daily purpose as a family. It can be as simple as enjoying a common last name. The processes of the father providing for his family and the mother providing the daily nurture for His Little Ones are put into motion. It is amazing to me how much the method of worship serves as a tight spiritual bridge to the natural order of our lives. Indeed, it should be no shock that the Mass bears spiritual truth in its representation of what it means to be human – even in some of its most simplistic aspects.

8th The purpose of our day is put before us in the form of gifts before the altar of Christ. This is much in the same way that a parent lays out breakfast on the table so that the members of the family might have energy for the day ahead. As so too does the priest accept the necessary gifts and make them ready for consumption. We take thanks that these nourishments are suitable to our spiritual bodies (i.e., our souls) and make ready our hunger for what is good and nourishing to our human be-ings. Before taking part in our spiritual meal, we acknowledge the purposes of our doing so and thank God that we have been provided with an Earth capable of producing what we need – for we have not so created that which we need for life.

9th We pray as Christ asked us to and acknowledge the simplicity of His purposes and provision. Matthew 6:9-13; Luke 11:2-4. We make peace with those around us and acknowledge their humanity by shaking a hand and sharing a smile. John 14:27; 16:33; 20:19-20; 20:26.

10th Once we are at peace, we acknowledge that we, in our human states, are not worthy to receive Christ, but that he alone has the ability to heal us so that we might be able to make use of the Spiritual Nourishment we are about to receive. John 1:29-36; Revelations 5:6-13, 22:1-3; Luke 7:1-10.

11th We enter into the ultimate purpose of our day – to meet Christ literally and figuratively in our past, present, and future. We do so by acknowledging our sinful history, becoming clean again in Communion with Christ and his Church, and looking forward to the power of the meal we have taken up for the spiritual energy we need to sustain life into the future day.

12th After coming into full Communion and enjoying the Holy Meal put before us, we take a few moments to relax and contemplate the blessings we receive by and through He who provides for us. We prepare for dessert, which is the success, travails, sharing in the Redemptive Story, and hopes of a new day. Because we are not greedy or selfish, we look forward to sharing in our new found hope with others such that we might be a humble beacon of life to those around us. What a joyful way to start the day. We are clean and ready to go out into the world.

13th After having girded up for the day, His representative leads us in a request that we have a good day through God’s blessings and that we go out into the world in peace. So too is it in the case of parents sending their children off to school and taking upon themselves the duties of providing for those in need (i.e., their children who could not otherwise take care of themselves but must grow up to be responsible in their provision and sustenance from God). Genesis 28:3; Deuteronomy 14:29; Numbers 6:23-27; Psalms 29:11.

While I know that Victor wasn’t headed in this direction when he spoke of the value in starting one’s day right, I must say that his sermon had a very powerful effect on my faith and the faith that I try to live by. I honestly don’t expect everyone to use the same spiritual soap that I do, and I have no problem acknowledging that we each prepare ourselves for the coming day in different ways.

What I can say for certain is that Truth often speaks through the most simple aspects of our lives (like eating, bathing, creating and maintaining a family, etc.). These things don’t take great brain power, come naturally, and are the bare essence of what it means to be human. For me, anyway, I choose a spiritual discipline which most reflects this same essence. Oddly enough, the Sacraments also each mirror the basic necessities of human survival (birth, necessary food, health, procreation, adulthood, commitment/service/purpose, death).

Much of the totality of human life, when looked at from afar, appears complicated and unresolved. Yet, on the most basic level, when all humans come to have the basic ability to bathe, learn, and eat, we will truly be at peace. Only by acknowledging that we must do this with a common purpose (Love of something much higher than ourselves – the highest source of our Being) and with a love of our fellow humans (Love of one another), do we ever have the possibility of achieving ultimate peace and prosperity.

We should each wash up and get on our knees.

Richard D. Ackerman (2/20/2010)

Hearing the Call, Defend Something Greater than Yourself

Leave a comment

When asked to write an article on religious liberties, I originally thought to give an update on First Amendment jurisprudence and maybe to throw in a couple of quips about the direction the courts have taken on religious freedom. Instead, I find myself struck by the awe of our professional calling under the Constitution. I think about the current state of our moral and financial economies as a nation. Moreover, I think of the political philosophy of Eric Voegelin and his view of what it means to seek the higher order in life and the law.

The solemn oath we have taken as officers of the Court is a serious oath to defend the Constitution and all that it stands for. In my view, the Constitution came from and stands for something much greater than ourselves. Indeed, when we think only of ourselves, that’s about all we get. We must always be willing to think of and be willing to defend something greater than ourselves.

The need to defend free speech, religious freedom, and the right to assemble has never been more critical. We live in a society where values have become relativistic, where morality is centered on individual ‘needs,’ and where economic viability is the test for one’s societal worth. Sadly, the First Amendment often finds itself protected only by those who have a certain political view of what it means and the regular absence of a counter-position is misread as victory or consensus. We also forget that relativism is but a subtle form of anarchy. Yet, fortunately, the objectivity of the Constitution provides a societal solace not found in many other parts of the world.

Moreover, much of the ‘defense’ of the First Amendment has resulted in the conclusion that anything of divinity has no place in public discourse. Religion, faith, and a sense of wanting to restore order have been morphed into a negative, if even reviled, position in contemporary jurisprudence. It should not be so. We all ought to self-examine the purpose of being legal professionals and must strive to zealously defend the First Amendment as though the very progress of humanity depended on our advocacy. Indeed, we can only progress when we seek a higher order beyond our present lot in life. But for the idea of something greater and outside than ourselves, we would have no need or desire for progress as humans. We often forget that the difference between human evolution and natural evolution is that human evolution is generally self-directed. You must know that we can define the parameters of a bright and recovering future. We as lawyers can help define the justice necessary for America’s recovery.

In the case of the American justice system, our higher order is reflected in the language of the Constitution. In this vein, the trier-of-fact’s pull toward the higher order can only be had through a tension existing between the conduct that gave rise to the litigation and the law which applies when a given state of events is proved. Each side has a story to tell, both sides are presented and, from the tension between the sides, comes “justice.” The concept of a living justice is a purely noetic experience. Equally, justice must always be reflective of a higher calling toward Reason.

Reason, in the classical sense, is not to be taken as referring to `reason as mere logic or logical constructs’. Instead, “Reason” is a human experiential event, an ever-present “constituent of humanity,” and a “source of order in the psyche of man.” With an air of sincere hope, Eric Voegelin saw Man as being able to actually experience and articulate divinity. This experience, is one that comes from the illumination and presencing of both: a.) the disorder which constitutes man’s limited spatio-temporal material existence, and; b.) that which causes man to be a questioning being containing the divine within him. Please do not confuse the term “divine” with purely theological connotations. Think of it as more of the essence of what makes Man different than a common animal.

Voegelin’s representation of Reason is used here as a paradigm for the workings of a Constitutional jurisprudence. In this vein, all of us called to the profession of law must defend the cornerstone of our higher order, which is the First Amendment. It must also be known that when we fail to defend it, we deny human progress, we deny the opportunity for diversity of thought, and we kill the very spirit of our system of justice.

Historically, it must be acknowledged that the development of the Constitution could not have been anything but a manifestation of America’s pull toward the Divine and was reflective of the experience of Reason. The Constitution was not meant to be a mere recital of ideas and concepts that might prove useful in the governance of human affairs in the eighteenth century and beyond.

Presently, it seems that America is in a pull toward the passions of socio-economic existence and we have voluntarily lost sight of the divinity in us. Our present pull toward the darker elements of American humanity amounts to an outright rejection of the Divinity which inspired the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

In my view, the inspiration for the Constitution was an identifiable experience of reality and the “cognitively luminous force” which allowed resistance against the tyranny and disorder of English rule and allowed the founding of a vibrant new democracy. By reflection on the experience that gave rise to the articulations set forth in the Constitution, Americans came to have a guiding force by which they could direct the higher voice of Reason through their unique cultural experiences. This force was a force within them and a force that defined/created them.

Voegelin’s notion of Reason is founded on the essential claim that `experiences create concepts.’ In the case of the Constitution, the American experience of the 18th century created powerful political concepts. The human experience of the time, however, was only a medium through which the Constitution could come to be a representation of the higher order giving rise to its possibility as a living documentation of human contact with higher/divine order.

The Constitution, as an instrument of communication, is an accounting of the transcendent experience that the Founders had. It was/is account of that which they believed to be “God-given” or divinely-given. The Constitution contains reflections of the metaxy between Man and the Divine which existed long before the American Revolution and which could not have prevented the split between America and Great Britain. The enactment of the Constitution certainly did not serve to completely disenfranchise men from their passions, enslavement of other human beings, or the need for a physical revolution.

The force that allows the human psyche to resist disorder is called the ever present, but oft hidden, “Nous.” Each of us has Nous within us we participate in the Nous of our times. Nous is reflective of a movement toward higher order. However, as suggested above, the noetic movement toward higher order is countered by a natural human pull toward our primitive passions and the matter which makes for our finite human existence in time and space. According to Voegelin, this creates a tension (i.e., metaxy) between the passions and higher order. As such, we are in a state of existential unrest and do damage to ourselves by failing to recognize the divinity in our human purpose.

Humbly, however, we are to recognize that Man is not self-created nor is Man a self-sufficient being which carries within him/her the ultimate meaning of the universe. Rather, humanity is left with questions about the “ultimate ground” of reality. Our experience is taken to be from the position of being an interrogator of reality. Our ability to articulate perceived answers to our own interrogatories becomes our greatest and most respectable endeavor. This work is most reflective of that which makes us what we are. This ability to articulate with regard to the `process of questioning’ allows us to hint at, reflect on and share with others our experience of the “ultimate ground” for our existence, which again, is in us and which created us.

It is our questioning that is, in of itself, reflective of our pull toward that which created us. We know not why we question; Yet, we do know that we are compelled to question. The First Amendment provides a guaranty that we might be able to engage in higher Reason even when we fail to desire the sanctity of our freedoms. By defending that which serves as the force behind our inherent desire to question, we are thinking about the arche’ of our humanity. A necessary mode of tension is created between the higher order and our struggle to attain it.

When in good health, our modes of tension can take the forms of hope, faith, love and trust. This includes faith, hope and trust in our fellow man, whether he be Christian, Buddhist, Muslim, Atheist, or simply questioning. Moreover, the theophanic events of hoping and believing are not dependent on race, creed, religion, ethnicity, or gender. Justice is the mode of tension in the Noetic-Constitutional experience.

The initial appeal to our divine nature in the development of the Constitution of the United States finds itself in the following language from the Declaration of Independence:

“We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” The phrase “self evident” detectably takes on a sense of having truths and knowledge of the divine arise from within ourselves and yet also directly arises from that which allows us to be or that which created the ability for us to see these truths as self evident.

In fact, the serious disorder of the age was reflected in America’s claims about the conduct of Great Britain. In point, America claimed that Great Britain was acting against the public good, engaging in invasions of rights, obstructing the administration of justice, plundering and ravaging, burning towns, destroying lives, completing works of “death, desolation and tyranny,” and being “deaf to the voice of justice.”

Assuming these things to be true, with a view toward our own times, it certainly appears that early America did not continue to remain in the apeironic depths of its then extant position in the continuum of human time and space. There were no more house burnings, trials by Church and State, or obvious acts of tyranny following the divine encounter of America. Nor was She limited by any belief that man cannot aspire to the divine.

This Nous of the eighteenth century was again manifest in the language of the Constitution itself. To wit, the following was stated and ratified on September 17, 1787:

“We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquillity, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish the Constitution of the United States of America.”

The Constitution would then become that “supreme law of the land.” The articulations contained therein would now become the `persuasive force’ that would, in Voegelin’s terms, illuminate America’s existence for its citizens and the world as a whole. The Constitution was now an articulated unit of meaning having arisen from the metaxy of man’s human experience and that which caused him to believe that there was a higher order outside of his epistemological footing of the time. Justice would now take place at a new and ongoing politico-metaxy existing at the junction of the Constitution and the conduct of our daily human affairs.

On December 15, 1791, the United States further exhibited its tension toward the ground of its existence by ratifying the Bill of Rights. Among these fundamental rights, and first mentioned, was the right to free speech. This particular right is an ultimate reflection of the experiential phenomena described by Voegelin in that it secured the right of persons to “articulate” their experiences as questioning human beings. Again, we must remember Voegelin’s claim that our movements toward the divine ground can only be had through articulation of our experiences. The First Amendment affirms man’s questioning nature and so he becomes temporarily vindicated from the disorder and tyranny that began to stifle his questioning existence. America’s pursuit of that which was claimed to be “God-given” would then be further vindicated by enactment of the remaining nine Amendments to the Constitution.

Assuredly it seems that the right to be secure in our persons and property, the right to trial by a group of our peers and the separation of Church and State bolster our ability to seek the ultimate ground of our existence on an individual level.

Nonetheless, Voegelin, in his discussion of the Greek experience of Reason, warns us that humans can find themselves distanced from the Nous and Reason when these things are viewed as something wholly abstract and distanced from the realm of the direct human experience of consciously facing off with reality. We begin to develop certain psychopathology when we lose our openness and desire to pursue the divine. Modern America is exhibiting near terminal pathology relative to the Constitution as higher order given by the divine within us. This is a pathology that is manifest by a disrespect for the value of human life, political party agendas (outside a beneficial conservative/liberal politico-metaxy), and the fears of a society governed by fiscal economies.

As mentioned above, Reason comes about through an interactive experience wherein man and his arche are mutual participants at the metaxy between them. The mutuality of the experience makes for healthy existence. When we focus away from the ground, we become philosophically ill.

That which created us is taken to be as much a part of our existence as the human experience of existence itself and thus plays a central role in our healthy consciousness. Undeniably, it seems that consciousness comes into being, that complete consciousness is the prerequisite to experience and that experience of reality is the medium by which we come to acknowledge our consciousness.

We must also realize that we cannot simply reason ourselves out of the horrors of our time. It must be recognized that “reason” (with a small “r”) is only a tool by which we can come to interpret the material world around us. It does nothing to bring our attention to that which allows or which created our “reason” in the first place. Focuses on “reason” are only focuses on human interpretation of the world and not on that which is in the world per se’.

Thus, it seems that a philosophical ascent to that which is the higher cause or source is much more in line with the ultimate goal of experiencing mankind as something more than mere matter clashing with other matter in the world of conscious reality. The philosophical ascent is the one that soars on the wings of the tension between that which caused us to be and that which we are. All the while, we must maintain an openness to that which compels us to be questioning beings. “Reason,” as an epochal historical event, is to be taken in an ontological sense and is a process happening in the whole of reality and, when recognized, assists us in rising above the disorder of our material conduct.

Matter, in a sense, becomes a constant: Our interactive and questioning nature, when acknowledged, activated and defended, allows for variables and choices beyond what merely “is.”

Our human be-ing becomes a state of interactive questioning, in the sense of “What might be, besides that which is before me?”, Thus, we are moved forward in our be-ing. The First Amendment promotes this process. A passive view of reality would not allow us our individuality or perceived acknowledgment of God-given rights or the Divine or Reason. Denial of the right to question denies our fundamental humanity. Further, the process of questioning is the very eventing of the human consciousness and defines our humanity.

When we solely focus on the mere “matter” of experience or the tools which are used to interpret the matter, we are at most existing at an experiential standstill. A focus on logic, mere sense data, language, passions and scientific method calls us only into the present and past. Questioning is a bridge to the future. Our willingness to defend all questioning provides the necessary materials for this bridge. Although the material necessary to effectuate and answer is within the world, the questioning comes first and is a humanly conscious event beyond the realm of matter.

Again, the Constitution provides an articulation of the structure of government and the relationship of the People to Government. The Constitution wasn’t meant to be temporary and, quite properly I believe, we have not treated it as such. The Constitution is a reflection of what America should be. Unfortunately, it is not necessarily a reflection of who Americans are today.

In order to have a truly free society, there must be a mutual participation between us and the spirit of the Constitution. We must recognize the divine nature of others. When officers of court or everyday citizens reject the divine order reflected in them, we become ill as Constitutionally created, inspired, and driven citizens. Notwithstanding, we should not remain in offense of another’s rejection of Constitutionality, but must seek the production of faith, hope, love and respect by placing ourselves back into a state of unrest at the metaxy of our daily conduct and the Constitution.

There are such things as justice, love and equity in the world by virtue of our interactive role in the whole of reality. We come recognize that there are such things because we engage in conduct and interaction that is substituted by words like “justice.” It is in the experiences of life that we find justice and, as a lawyers, the Constitution reaffirms our daily purpose. Listen to the call of your profession and defend something higher than yourselves.

Permissum Meus Fides Exsisto a Opus Dei

2 Comments

OpusDei [Downloadable .pdf version for easier reading].

Make no mistake about it, your works do matter to your salvation. Read the ‘red letters’ in your Bible. The works required of you are neither difficult, nor for public glory, nor for any other purpose than the fulfillment of your Divine Destiny as someone asking for the Eternal Grace of God. Empty faith alone will not suffice to meet the needs of your purpose in life. Faith, however, is the only thing that will sanctify your works and Grace alone will suffice to overcome your inadequacies as a flawed human. The Ultimate Price was paid so that this Grace might be extended to all of us.

Those who teach others to be complacent in the accomplishment of these necessary works, or requiring others to do the work required of us alone, will not do well in the kingdom of heaven. I directly challenge any reader of this article – Prove to me otherwise by the Words of Christ Himself.

Many Evangelicals, Mainline Protestants, Catholics and other Christian denominational faiths begin just about any theological debate with a view toward determining whether the opposition truly believes in salvation by grace alone, salvation by works, or some hybrid theory. As with all theological debates about what it means to be a “Christian,” it seems that we all ought to take a look at the actual Words of Christ as a starting point. This particular piece focuses on the ‘red letters’ as found in the Book of Matthew. I cannot help but find that faith alone, without daily living proof of that faith, will not suffice.

I believe this article is timely given the death of the Kansas late-term abortionist, George Tiller. Many of us pro-lifers, whether we want to admit it or not, felt a refreshing sense of relief that he is no longer able to tear apart babies who would have otherwise survived outside of the womb, but for his act of dismembering them or vacuuming out their brains. By his own account, he may have taken as may as 60,000 infants’ lives.

Of course, for the Christian, the question becomes, “What if Dr. Tiller gave his life over to Christ in the last 30 seconds of life?” Moreover, there exists a serious theological question as to whether the murderer of Tiller blasphemed the Holy Spirit by taking the life of Tiller in a church. If Tiller’s potential plea for last-minute salvation failed, he went straight to Hell. Even if Tiller’s shooter, Scott Roeder, was a holy person till that moment, if blasphemy unto the Holy Spirit occurred, he’s done as well. The ‘red letters’ actually don’t leave much room for debate on these points. Obviously, if one thinks that the Words are just a form of philosophy, good advice, or just simply one view among many, there is no sense in even attempting to understand the clear choices put before us. The Good News is that we don’t need to personally worry about Tiller’s and Roeder’s issues since we have plenty to do ourselves to act upon our own Faith.

With these points in mind, a step-by-step analysis of Matthew reveals some interesting answers about whether we are required to engage in certain works before we may avoid the fires of Hell. For me, the question is readily answered by even a cursory review of Jesus’ words. The Great Story of the Book of St. Matthew is set forth as follows.

First of all, we are told that we cannot live by material means alone. It is written that we must live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. (Matthew 4:4, KJV). In this same vein, it also naturally follows that we should not participate in the temptation of God with the help of the Enemy (4:7). These commands are then concluded with the thought that we are to commit ourselves unto God through our service and worship to Him alone. (4:10). Oddly, the Scripture does not say that we are to make this commitment only by worship or belief alone. This can only be reasonably construed to mean that my faith is not sufficient for salvation, but that faith with works is. Our faith, however small, can grow into the greatest of works (even so much as moving a mountain) and we will need the Grace of God to be fully sanctified. (17:20; 19:23-24, 26; 21:21-22).

After Matthew recounts the time Christ spent in the desert with Satan, we are given a not so subtle description of why all of this matter. It is summed up by saying “Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. […] Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (4:17, 19).

Well, what could “follow me” possibly mean? Using the words literally, as I expect most conservatives would want me to, one can only get the conclusion that “follow me” requires acts coupled with faith.

Moreover, what does it mean to “repent”? It can only mean that you live life as though you were in acknowledgment of your sins. We all know that true repentance can only be shown by how we live our lives. The “why” of how we live our lives is not something we can ever answer sufficiently. When life is over, we will only find out why we lived our lives the way we did. As we are later told, there will be plenty of folks knocking on the door, claiming His Name, and the door is simply not going to be answered.

Nevertheless, Matthew leads us to the first big sermon in Chapters 5 through 7. Interestingly enough, these Chapters are not a big sermon on altar calls and faith standing alone. They focus almost exclusively on the omissions and commissions to/of acts which lead to our place in Heaven, or, where in disregard of His Word, we end up with weeping, gnashing of teeth, or the fires of Hell. It is also interesting that these words are being directed at people who obviously came to listen to Jesus, already believed in what he was doing, and he had to have already known that he was going to Calvary. If he knew that he was going to Calvary to wash the entire slate for anyone who believed in him, he certainly spent a whole lot of arguably unnecessary time talking about what needed to be done by the believers and what they needed to avoid. If the words were only suggestions, I sincerely doubt that he would have followed up commands or prohibitions with words stating that either Heaven or Hell would follow, not purely by the decision to believe in Him, but by how these things were done.

This said, the followers were told that the “blessed” are those who are poor in spirit, meek, who mourn, who hunger and thirst after righteousness, who are pure in heart, who are merciful, who are peacemakers, who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, and when one is reviled for His sake. (5:3-11). The result of which is made very clear. It is said , “Rejoice, and be exceedingly glad: for great is your reward in heaven […]” (5:12). What could this possibly mean? If I do the things commanded, I will find great reward in Heaven. Each and every single one of the things mentioned requires that I do something. There is no way to be any of these things without a work of the conscience, often coupled with an overt act toward another human being. By way of our contemporary reference point, there are cogent arguments to be made that neither Tiller, nor his killer, demonstrated any of these characteristics as they completed their final works in life. Whether or not their lives were an Opus Dei is not for us to decide per se. We can only use their examples as a way to define or redefine our own daily existence.

After giving a description of those who will be blessed and given comfort, Christ goes on to tell the multitudes that they need to be a “light of the world” and that we are to “[l]et your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works. [emphasis added].” (5:16). Now, obviously, given His prior words, our works cannot be done or committed in such a way that we are prideful, vain, or arrogant. Our works need to flow forth from a heartfelt desire to allow our lives to become the ultimate act of service unto our Maker and those that he created to live with and amongst us.

Well, maybe you still have John 3:16 in mind (i.e., the penultimate “altar call” verse cited so often by contemporary Christians), and just don’t think that following the commands set forth in Chapter 5 are mandatory for entrance to heaven. I must ask you then, why does Matthew 5:19 go onto say that the failure to abide in “these” commandments will result in being called “the least in the kingdom of heaven”? Maybe that’s not enough for you. It goes on to say, “For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven. [emphasis added]. ” (5:20). I’m not the brightest guy in the world, but this does certainly seem unequivocal. Moreover, the “righteousness” being referred to follows directly from the beatitudes given to the crowd as instructions on what it means to follow Him. Nary a word is said about simply doing an altar-call and being relieved of further duty to actually do works that one is capable of within one’s own calling in life or given environment.

Now, how these acts are carried out by each of us can only depend on where we are in life. For example, a lawyer may be able to share his/her light in the courthouses. An invalid may only be able to share his/her light in a convalescent home. A mother may only be in a position to share her light with her husband and family. I don’t think that He said that our works must occur in any certain place. These works just must simply occur with the precedence of a pure, humble and willing heart. Again, the failure to abide by the commandments to fulfill his Law and Word, results in being called the least in heaven. The good news, at this early juncture in Matthew, is that one can conceivably still end up in heaven. However, as will be seen later in the Book, there are several things one can do to make sure that you have no chance at the proverbial entrance ticket.

After given the admonition that the failure to abide in specific commandments will lead us to becoming the least in heaven, Jesus goes on to give some specific instructions about what will actually get us near or into the fires of Hell. (5:22). The first one of these instructions being that simply calling a brother a fool is good enough to put us “in danger of hell fire.” This is followed by the command that we not come before God to place our gifts before His altar until and unless we have forgiven others of whatever perceived transgressions they may have committed against us. To the extent that we are called to lay our entire lives before the altar as a testimony unto Him and our fellow man, it does not seem to matter if we have not forgiven others. I think it is all too easy to say that one has done an altar-call, placed their lives at the altar, but yet completely forget to forgive others in that process. All too many of us do the altar-call, but don’t engage in the conscious act/work of forgiveness.

All too many of us forget that forgiveness is an act or work. Any “act” or “work” by a human requires that we direct our conscious will toward a given outcome and take the steps necessary to fulfill the intended outcome. If, for example, I want to forgive someone, then I must first will it so and then commit myself to the act of completing the forgiveness by consciously letting go any desire to seek revenge, to carry the baggage of the other’s sin, or to otherwise ‘hold it against the person’ until they have somehow repented in my view. In fact, if there is any one consistent theme in the New Testament, it is that we are to engage in the work of forgiving others and in the work of accepting His Grace so that our works might be sanctified and our negligent omissions overlooked. (22:37-40). By the way, it is so often said that “it isn’t easy to forgive.” Actually, it is supposed to be easier than anything Christ did. (9:3-6).

Along these same lines, with regard to what it means to commit an “act,” Christ further admonishes His listeners to make sure that they not only avoid murder, adultery and other offenses, but that we avoid even the very intentional thoughts of these things. With respect to those thoughts that occur to us without apparent reason, we are instructed to remove them immediately and take an immediate view toward the end goal. In fact, we are specifically warned that if we do not commit the act of removing sinful thoughts and doings from our existence, that the whole “body should be cast into hell.” (5:27-32).

As though we didn’t have enough to do after actually listening to His words in Chapter 5: 3-32, Christ goes on to speak about what our words shall be unto others. We are told that we are to keep our words simple and that we are not to swear by anyone, anything, or even by our own veracity. (5:33-37).

Now as for Tiller’s murderer, Verses 38-44 are particularly compelling. This is where we are specifically told that the “eye for an eye” system of morality is done. We are now to “turn the other cheek.” In fact, we are even told to “love your enemies.” We are “bless them that curse you.” We are to “do good to them that hate you.” We are to “pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” (5:39-47). In fact Verse 46 clearly suggests that there may be no “reward” for the failure to do these things that are commanded. Where in Verses 38-44 does it say anything to the effect that we are just to have faith and that we not fully commit to doing these things as Christians? Is prayer something other than an act of faith (i.e., a work)?

Chapter 5 ends by saying, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. [emphasis added].” (5:48). How would one be “perfect” unless one acted in a way which presented itself as a standard by which God will judge whether or not we have achieved what his Son commands? Obviously, what we do matters just as much as what we claim we believe. The strength or existence of any belief in Christ can only be ascertained by our conduct since it is the conduct that defines the concept of what it means to have “faith.” If one is not doing the acts which suggest the existence of actual faith, one cannot claim to have the faith.

Naturally, one would expect that this is all fine and dandy in theory. However, one is left to wonder about how it is that one is supposed to commit all of these acts unto our Maker, without violating the requirement that we not do them for our own glory, but unto the Glory of our Maker alone. This is answered in Chapter 6. We are told not to do our alms before Man, we are not to pray openly only for the purpose of being seen by others, we are not to make a big show out of our faith and sacrifices, and we are not to engage in vain repetition of prayers. (6:1-8, 16-17). None of this suggests that we cannot rejoice with each other in our salvation, our reasons for acting the way we do, or in the consolation that we have a good reason for doing good unto others. We can be a light unto the world without being blinding to others.

We are commanded, however, to pray in a way in a way that is in acknowledgment of the power of God, which respect His will for all of us (here and in heaven), that we receive the basic provisions of life, that we be forgiven as we forgive others, that we be given the help to avoid the sinful thoughts and actions that come, and that all glory be properly placed with Him and not us. (6:9-14). This is immediately followed up with the statement that, “But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (6:15). Again, this sounds very unequivocal to me. If you don’t do this (i.e., forgive others), you will not be saved of your sins.

It is not enough that you simply have faith that so long as you believe in forgiveness, you will be forgiven. You must actually do it in order to receive your reward !!! As we engage in a life of forgiveness and service, we earn our due treasures. (12:35-37). Our eyes must constantly be focused on this purpose and be focused in such a way as to where others have no doubt as to what we are looking at. (6:20-23). Along these same lines, you probably should not spend to much time thinking about what those who are already acting a in a Christian way are doing. (9:13). Our Master will see to it that the requisite number of workers are put into the field of life without us doing anything other than what is required of us whilst we act through and by a Christian heart and soul. (9:37-38). If you attempt to have an influence on someone through your humble service, or words of preaching, and they want no part of it, don’t worry about it. (10:5-15). It is expected that you will be persecuted for doing what is right and you better be prepared to face your prosecutors with a glad and humble heart !!! (10:16-28).

While we are busy doing all of the things required of us, so that we might avoid the fires of hell, we are also commanded not to worry. (10:25-31). Well, how am I not going to worry? Obviously, we must, again, take a conscious direction toward ignoring worry, and act in a way that testifies to our full faith in Him alone. That is, we must actively pursue the conscious act of destroying all worry. This is no easy task. We must trust that He will take care of all of our needs and that he will pave the way for His glorification and that He will take care of evil on His own. (6:24-34; 10:32-33).

Our ultimate trust in Him is, and must be, founded upon our spiritual and mental acts of conscience, purpose, and servitude. How easily we forget that we have control over our attitudes, philosophies, theology, and mindset. Freewill is not a matter of controlling external circumstances, which we cannot. Freewill is premised only in the notion that we can only change our attitude toward our circumstances, and, generally speaking, our circumstances will naturally change as our spiritual attitude does. (6:33-34).

Well, now the difficult part comes. Chapter 7 speaks to us on the topics of judgment of others, judgment of ourselves, hypocrisy, evilness, false prophecy, corruption, and the intent of our works. (7:1-23). In no way is it suggested that our works alone will save us. (7:16-23). Our works must be, as stated before, with a view toward glorification unto our Maker. They must be committed with a view toward spiritual, mental, and physical servitude unto something higher than ourselves. The works we commit may be good unto themselves and, in fact, may be very pleasing or admirable to others. However, this is completely irrelevant to the Christian. The Christian can have but one purpose in fulfilling his or her Divine Destiny. We must know why we do what we do before it can be given any credit worthy of Him. (7:22-23). Commit yourself to the act of building your house on a rock !!! (7:24-27).

It should also be noted that so many of us think in linear terms. We often think that our purpose is to serve God, family, friends, and business (in respective order). This is simply not true. You cannot put your family before your faith. That’s a serious work. (10:37).

We’ve got a lot of hard, but gladful, work before us. (10:34-42). “Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Where is the “rest” coming from then? It comes from the peace of acting through and in him. Nowhere is it suggested that our works don’t matter or aren’t necessary. They will be made easy by our faith in Him, through Him and with Him. What makes life burdensome is when we falsely define what work is required and how it ought to be performed. It really isn’t that hard to feed the poor, to be merciful, to forgive, to make peace, or to preach the truth, when all is done from a humble heart directed at a Divine Purpose. Our purpose ought to emanate a natural and warm light unto the world. Our lives cannot be defined by our material possessions, even if we worked hard to get them. (19:29).

So aside from acting or failing to act, what can get us in real spiritual trouble? The answers are given in a fairly straightforward manner. Even a “believer” can get himself or herself to Hell. Remember, even Satan believes in the power of God – that’s why he fears God so much. It is said, “Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men. And, whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come. [bold emphasis added].” (12:25-37). This is, again, an unequivocal statement that there are acts of speech which will be completely unforgiven, regardless of Calvary nor the reasons for Calvary. Not only do your physical acts need to be conducted in conformity with your faith, your speech must also be as well. These are matters of works/acts, and not simply matters of perceived “faith.” (12:35-37).

At this point, it is also probably worth noting that the common denominator amongst all of the parables in Matthew is that they all involve forms of hard work (i.e., building, sowing seeds, buying and selling, toiling in a field, repayment of debts, working the vineyard, preparing for a wedding, grinding at the mill, serving the man of the house, spending our money/goods wisely). Moreover, the parables seem to end with the result that someone is rewarded for doing the right thing, or, in the alternative, ends up burning, weeping, gnashing their teeth, and/or being cast out into the darkness. (13:3-9, 18-23, 25-43, 44-50; 18:23-35; 20:1-16; 21:27-40; 22:2-14; 24:40-41; 24:43-51; 25:1-30).

In Matthew 15 we are again reminded that it is our words that can defile us. (15:8-11, 18-20). The problem with words is that they are most often outright intentional or certainly a byproduct of the will of the heart. When we engage in unholy speech-acts, we defile ourselves, regardless of whatever we may somehow believe. It is not the beliefs that we hold which most see or hear, it is the words and actions that accompany our day-to-day interactions with others. Our words are works of faith.

Following the above sayings, instructions, and admonitions, Jesus then, after being asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”, responds with a rather lengthy discourse in Chapter 18 on what it means to be a believer. (18:1-2). The analysis is deep and again speaks to the conduct which will separate the sheep from the goats. (18:3-35). Indeed, we are reminded that our faith should be as that of a child – innocent, pure, and unaffected. Again, we are also given a dire description of what happens to those who mislead his “little ones.”

In fact, misleading a child results in the notion that one would be better off being drowned in the sea than to have interfered with the faith of a child. (18:3-7). Well, how does one mislead a child? Obviously, one can only mislead another through setting a bad example through conduct or speech or by directly doing wrong unto the “little one” (i.e., through our works). It is even stated that his “little ones” have direct representatives before the “face of my Father.” (18:10). For me, anyway, there is plenty to think about with respect to our contemporary culture of consistently misleading children by direct interference with their innocence and pure faith. Indeed, many an organization is fully dedicated to destroying the faith of children and supplanting it with secular values or no values at all.

With respect to disputes between Christians, Matthew 18:15-17 gives us a form of conduct by which they are to be resolved. We are to work it out amongst ourselves. If that does not work, then we are to work it out as a private situation within the Church. In the event this does not work, we are simply to separate ourselves from the problem. Each one of these steps takes work and has very little to do with inactive faith. In fact, with respect to forgiveness, we are immediately told that our forgiveness must not be once, or seven times, but seventy times seven. (18:21-23). That’s some serious work for anyone.

As to the conduct of our sexual lives, the call to certain conduct continues again in Matthew 19, where we are reminded that man and woman are made for each other and it was so from the beginning. We are reminded that we have the responsibility to cleave to our wives and to become one with them. The Scripture, in this area, is very clear and unequivocal. A direct command not to interfere with the relationship is also made and divorce is viewed as a form of direct judgment. Remarrying is adultery, save the cause of fornication by the wife. The new husband of the cheater is, by his conduct, deemed an adulterer as well in this instance. How does he become an adulterer, you ask? By his works. (19:4-9).

Interestingly, it is accepted by Jesus that not all will marry and, since being in the womb, were not meant to be married. (19:12). To some extent, Christ was aware of the arguments that might be made against those who don’t marry (i.e., accusations, gossip, questions as to their sexuality). He did not condemn these people, but reminded us of the purpose given to them by Him and not us. (Id.).

Next, comes the Greatest Commandments, which are:

“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. [emphasis added].” (22:37-40).

This is the summa theologica. Who amongst us thinks that love is simply a matter of faith? I don’t know about any of you, but I know that love requires hard work, intentional and humble sacrifice of self, and an undying need to acknowledge that we cannot control the object of our love nor the source of the Greatest Love. While my faith has helped me love when I thought I had none left, I have always had to meet God halfway with my private dedication, servitude, and willingness to will my mind, soul and body to do the right things to strengthen my love of others and even of self.

After setting forth the Great Commandments, Christ then goes on to point out that we should not merely expect others to do the works required of us. Rather, we must do honor to the value of works of servitude by serving others ourselves. Moreover, we are again our works cannot be for show or for the purpose of building more impressive churches. (23:2-39). As though one could be surprised, we again find a very negative result for those who do not pay heed to these admonishments. Indeed, should we abide in our institutionalized and personal religious hypocrisy, our house shall be left unto us “desolate.” (23:38).

Even in the face of persecution, deliverance of our bodies for earthly punishment, hatred, deception, and iniquity, we “shall endure unto the end.” (24:4-13). Well, what does “endure” mean? It can only mean that, along with faith, we do what is required to get to the end of what life means for us in even a hostile culture. We are to act toward the end of being a faithful “servant.” (24:43-51).

After reminding us of the end game, the pragmatic lessons of Matthew essentially wraps up with the following summation:

And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats:

And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.

Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:

For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:

Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.

Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?

When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?

Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?

And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:

For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink:

I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.

Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?

Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.

And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal. (25:31-46).

And so it is that the Great Story told in Matthew ends with a clear how-to guide as to what acts will show our faith and those omissions which place ourselves in jeopardy of eternal damnation. Where in this final admonition does it say that our mere faith, our mere knocking on the door, our mere religious affiliation, or our mere belief in God, gets us into Heaven? It simply doesn’t. What we are left with is a clear command that we must do certain things and the failure to do them will result in something eternally bad.

Unless someone is going to claim that these Words cannot be taken at face value, they are unequivocal. Our works matter and they are essential to the goal of reaching the end as a good and faithful servant. Do not be so blind as to lead another to complacency by asking them to buy off on the idea of ‘salvation by faith alone’ with nary a living proof that the faith has a foundation in daily life. To do so would be to mislead one of His “little ones.”

For those of us who already know these truths, we are further instructed to teach all others to likewise abide, by our conduct, in observing His commandments. (28:20). As for me and my house, permissum meus fides exsisto a Opus Dei. That is, may my faith be an acceptable work of God unto Him.

Older Entries